Spiralling corrupt practices behind need for Lokayukta

The need for Lokayukta has never been felt more and with the growing influence of money power in society.

An exasperated Supreme Court, unwilling to accept the callous indifference any more, shown by 11 states including Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, has sought explanation from them for non appointment of the institution of Lokayukta, to enquire into issues of corruption relating to acts of public officials, including politicians. The opposition has picked up this order to beat the ruling dispensation, but there is no concerted effort in this direction yet. The state of TN, ruled by one or the other major grouping has shown no intent to have a Lokayukta in place, despite the traded charges of humungous corruption by each other.

The expression Lokayukta has its origins in Sanskrit- ‘Appointed by the people’- relatable to the Swedish concept of Ombudsman of 1809 vintage. Who can forget the mass movement- India Against Corruption(IAC)- led by the Gandhian Anna Hazare and the leaders it threw up, including Arvind Kejriwal, which sought a Jan Lokpal Bill at the Centre with stringent provisions to catch corrupt persons in society. The Act of 2013 passed by Parliament, under pressure from the team of Anna Hazare, which resonated pan India at that time left it to the discretion of each state to appoint its Lokayukta.

It is a matter of deep regret that Prime Minister Modi who rode to a majority promising to clean up the mess left behind by 2G, Coal Scam and Commonwealth Games scam, has failed to come up with the Lokpal at the Centre till date.

It is a matter of shame that in 2015, when last heard, India was ranked 76th out of 168 countries as the most corrupt systems by Transparency International. TN is noted for being the hotbed of corruption, if the political parties are to be believed, when accusing each other of such acts. While Maharashtra was the first off the block with Lokayukta Act in 1971, till date, only 19 states in India have enacted the Legislation, but most of them headless and heedless,(W Bengal, Gujarat et al) for all practical purposes.

The need for Lokayukta has never been felt more and with the growing influence of money power in society. The courts of law alone under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1947/1988 are in no position to handle the burgeoning number of crimes relating to corruption.

In the Indian hemisphere , the Administrative Reforms Commission of 1966 was a landmark when it suggested an institution akin to ombudsman. IAC agitation of 2011 was a watershed moment when the Central Legislation came to be passed, coming into force from January 1, 2014. Notwithstanding the pitfalls and defects highlighted in the legislation, its need has never been felt more and the NDA government has shown little alacrity to identify the Lokpal, in the name of non cooperation from the opposition Congress leader and in the absence of a formal leader of the opposition.

In so far as TN in concerned, neither of the major groups in alliance have shown any inclination to setup a Lokayukta. Yet again, it is the apex court which has to intervene, upon unwillingness of the executive and the legislature to institutionalise the need for an anti-corruption entity in Lokayukta.

The precept and practice of Lokayukta has not been happy or comforting in most states, the political administrations have shown disdain for the office and refused its primacy. That is all the more reason why we need Lokayuktas, here and now, and we the people in TN, more than most, considering the spiralling corrupt practices and huge sums involved as well.

(The writer is a practising advocate in the Madras high court)

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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